Electoral Processes


To what extent do candidates and parties have fair access to the media and other means of communication?

All candidates and parties have equal opportunities of access to the media and other means of communication. All major media outlets provide a fair and balanced coverage of the range of different political positions.
The access of candidates and parties to media and means of communication is fair in principle, but practical constraints, such as the duration and breadth of a program’s coverage, restrict access for smaller parties and candidates to televised debates and other media appearances. Given the increased impact of such appearances on the electoral outcome, this bias is somewhat problematic from the point of view of fairness and justice. However, the restrictions reflect practical considerations rather than ideological agendas. Access to newspapers and commercial forms of communication is unrestricted, though in practice it is dependent on the economic resources of parties and individual candidates. Candidates are required to report on the sources of their campaign funds. Social media play an increasing role in candidates’ electoral campaigns, as these outlets now attract a growing share of voters. This also means that candidates are less dependent on party organizations and external funding for campaigning. As a consequence of the enhanced role of social media, campaigns are likely to be longer at the same time as candidates are expected to continuously share their opinion on a multitude of issues. Such trends are especially important in Finland, since the country uses an open list proportional system in which the order candidates are elected from the party lists is dependent on the number of personal votes received.
Strandberg, Kim (2012): Sosiaalisen median vallankumous? Ehdokkaat, valitsijat ja sosiaalinen media vuoden 2011 eduskuntavaaleissa. In: S. Borg (ed.), Muutosvaalit 2011, Helsinki: Ministry of Justice, 79-93.
Laakso, Mikko (2017). Sosiaalinen media vaalikampanjoinnissa.
Political campaigning is largely unregulated by federal legislation, a fact modestly criticized by the latest OSCE election report. Article 5 of the Political Parties Act (Parteiengesetz, PPA) requires that “where a public authority provides facilities or other public services for use by one party, equal treatment must be accorded to all parties.” During electoral campaigns, this general criterion applies to all parties that have submitted election applications (Art. 5 sec. 2). The extent of public services parties are able to use depends on their relative importance, which is based on each parties’ results in the last general election (Art. 5 sec. 3). This is called the “principle of gradual equality,” and constitutes the basis for parties’ access to media in conjunction with the Interstate Treaty on Broadcasting and Telemedia (Rundfunkstaatsvertrag). The gradual equality principle is also applied to television airtime, although in this case the time granted to large parliamentary parties is not allowed to exceed twice the amount offered to smaller parliamentary parties, which in turn receive no more than double the amount of airtime provided to parties currently unrepresented in parliament. While public media networks provide campaigns with airtime free of charge, private media are not allowed to charge airtime fees of more than 35% of what they demand for commercial advertising. Despite these rules, there is a persistent debate as to whether the media’s tendency to generally focus coverage on the six largest parties and, in particular, on government parties is too strong.
OSCD (2018): Federal Republic of Germany. Elections to the Federal Parliament (Bundestag). 24 September 2018.
All candidates and all parties have equal opportunities of access to the national media and other means of communication. The equality among political candidates in terms of their access to media is to a large extent safeguarded by the public service rules of the SVT (public television) and Sverige Radio (SR), a public radio outlet.

The print media in Sweden is overwhelmingly center-right in its political allegiance and is therefore more likely to cover center-right candidates than candidates from the parties on the political left. However, journalists have a significantly stronger preference for the Green and the Left parties than does the electorate as a whole. There is also a genuine left-wing media, particularly present on the internet. It should also be noted that the right-wing Sweden Democrats (Sverigedemokraterna, SD) is rapidly gaining importance in the electoral process as well as in parliament. Some newspapers still refuse to publish this party’s advertisements. And some newspapers have no political leaning, and rather criticize the actions of all parties.

In Sweden, as elsewhere in Europe, the usage of social media and other new forms of information sharing are increasing. These media are becoming more important for political campaigns. Though the information provided by social and other electronic media is vast and varied, selectivity facilitates a more narrow consumption of information than in traditional print media.
Andersson, Ulrika, Anders Carlander, Elina Lindgren, Maria Oskarson (eds.) (2018), Sprickor i fasaden (Gothenburg: The SOM Institute).

Asp, K. (2012), “Journalistkårens partisympatier,” in K. Asp (ed.), Svenska Journalister 1989-2011 (Gothenburg: JMG), 101-107.

Olsson, J., H. Ekengren Oscarsson and M. Solevid (eds.) (2016), Eqvilibrium (Gothenburg: The SOM Institute).
Candidates and parties may purchase political advertising in the print media. The only restriction to equal access by candidates and parties to these media outlets relates to resources. In this regard, there is a lack of transparency as political parties and candidates are not required to disclose who is supporting them. In 2017, the Social Democratic Party collected sufficient signatures to force a vote on a constitutional “transparency” article, which will be held in the next few years. The initiative would require that political parties name donors that give more than CHF 10,000. Likewise, if a person spends CHF 100,000 or more on an electoral or a popular campaign, they must name all donors who gave at least CHF 10,000.

Political advertising on television or other broadcast media is not allowed. In this regard, all candidates and parties have equal access, in the sense that none are able to buy political advertising on broadcast media.

Media organizations give a fair and balanced opportunity to political actors to present their views and programs, insofar as this does not become simple advertisement. Right-wing politicians sometimes complain that journalists give center-left politicians better access. There is little hard evidence that such a bias exists to any substantial extent. On the other hand, representatives of the Swiss People’s Party have successfully used their economic resources to control quality papers (e.g., temporarily the Basler Zeitung) and they have tried to restrain the country’s leading newspaper, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung.
Denmark is a liberal democracy. According to section 77 of the constitution, freedom of speech is protected: “Any person shall be at liberty to publish his ideas in print, in writing, and in speech, subject to his being held responsible in a court of law. Censorship and other preventive measures shall never again be introduced.” Freedom of speech includes freedom of the press. Denmark traditionally ranks high in the Press Freedom Index, but in 2018 Denmark dropped down to ninth place, with the report mentioning the murder of Swedish journalist Kim Wall in 2017.

The penal code sets three limits to freedom of speech: libel, blasphemy and racism. The independent courts interpret the limits of these exceptions.

The public media (Denmark’s Radio and TV2) have to fulfill programming criteria of diversity and fairness. All political parties that plan to take part in elections, whether old or new, large or small have the right to equal programming time on the radio and on television. Private media, mostly newspapers, tend also to be open to all parties and candidates. The trend decline in newspapers has implied a concentration on a few national newspapers, which has reduced media pluralism. However, all newspapers are, for instance, open to accepting and publishing letters to the editor. Likewise, all parties and candidates have equal possibilities of distributing pamphlets and posters. Finances can be a limiting factor, however, with the larger parties having more money for campaigns than smaller parties.
Straffeloven [The Penal Code], http://www.themis.dk/synopsis/docs/Lovsamling/Straffeloven_indholdsfortegnelse.html (accessed 15 April 2013).

Reporters Without Borders, “Press Freedom Index 2018.” https://rsf.org/en/denmark (Accessed 24 September 2018)

Zahle Henrik, 2001, Dansk Forfatningsret 1.
Candidates and political parties have fair and equal access to the public broadcasting and TV networks. Access to advertising on private networks and online, however, depends on the financial resources of the political parties. Therefore, smaller political parties and independent candidates have significantly limited access to mass media. There is no upper limit on electoral campaign expenses, which provides significant advantage to candidates and parties with more abundant financial resources. However, these disparities do not follow a coalition-opposition divide, nor is there discrimination on the basis of racial, ethnic, religious or gender status.

Because of the high internet penetration rate, various web and social media tools are becoming widely used in electoral campaigns, including election portals run by public and private media outlets. While this has so far helped candidates to reach a wider public cheaply, the parties have recently increased their online advertising expenditures.
According to French laws regulating electoral campaigns, all candidates must receive equal treatment in terms of access to public radio and television. Media time allocation is supervised by an ad hoc commission during the official campaign. Granted incumbents may be tempted to use their position to maximize their media visibility before the official start. Private media outlets are not obliged to follow these rules, but except for media outlets that expressly support certain party positions, newspapers and private media tend to fairly allocate media time to candidates, with the exception of marginal candidates who often run with the purpose of getting free media time. The paradox of this rule for equal time is that the presidential candidates who are likely to make it to the second round receive the same amount of media time as candidates who represent extremely marginal ideas or interests.
Incumbent political parties represented either in the national parliament or the European Parliament have equal opportunities for media access. However, the country’s national broadcaster (ERT) nowadays primarily, if not exclusively, communicates the views of the government coalition Syriza-ANEL, as it had done until 2014 with its previous political masters, namely either the PASOK or the ND government. In addition, since 2013 – when ERT was replaced by a new public broadcaster (NERIT) for a two-year period – the trade union of ERT’s employees (POSPERT) has operated a “self-managed” radio station, called ERT-open. The radio station almost exclusively broadcasts either Syriza views or the views of radical and anarchist groups to the left of Syriza.

Private media are also selective in their reporting and many are sensationalist. Importantly, though, both state and private media do not air the opinions of the neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn. The party had won parliamentary representation in the 2012 elections and repeated its success by obtaining 7% of the vote in the two parliamentary elections of 2015.
The trade-union managed radio station’s website is http://www.ertopen.com/
Irish political issues continue to receive widespread and detailed coverage in the press, on radio and on TV. Media coverage – especially on radio and TV – is subject to strict guidelines designed to ensure equity of treatment between the political parties. The state-owned national broadcasting company (RTÉ) allows equal access to all parties that have more than a minimum number of representatives in the outgoing parliament. Smaller political parties and independent candidates find it less easy to gain access to the national media. However, any imbalances that may exist at the national level tend to be offset at the local level through coverage by local radio stations and newspapers. Subject to normal public safety and anti-litter regulations, all parties and candidates are free to erect posters in public spaces. There were no significant changes in this area during the review period.

It is worth noting, though, that following legislation in 2009 (the Broadcasting Act), the 2011 election was the first in which RTÉ no longer operated entirely under self-regulation. This legislation meant that for the first time the regulation of both private and public broadcasters was vested in a single body, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). While these changes occurred prior to the current review period, research in this area is only just becoming available (see reference). The BAI does not, so far, seem to be all that effective in increasing transparency, although research suggests that RTÉ does have internal procedures that pay a great deal of attention to its statutory requirement to achieve “balance.”

All newspaper groups in Ireland are privately owned commercial operations. There have been some concerns about the dominant market positions of some media groups, in particular Independent News and Media (INM).
Kevin Rafter (2015), ‘Regulating the Airwaves: How Political Balance is Achieved in Practice in Election News Coverage.’ Irish Political Studies 30:4, 575-594.
Kevin Rafter (2018), ‘The Media and Politics,’ in John Coakley and Michael Gallagher (2018, eds) Politics in the Republic of Ireland, 6th edition. Routledge.
The publicly owned media are obliged to provide equal access to all political parties and coalitions. Debate programs on the state-funded Lithuanian Radio and Television are financed by the Central Electoral Commission. The media are also obliged to offer all campaigns the same terms when selling air time for paid campaign advertisements.

Newly introduced restrictions on political advertising, as well as restrictions on corporate donations to political parties, reduced the ability of the most-well-financed parties to dominate the airwaves in the run-up to the elections. Privately owned media organizations are not obliged to provide equal access to all political parties.

According to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), during the run-up to the 2014 presidential elections, the media environment was diverse and coverage of the campaign was thoroughly regulated. Candidates were provided with free airtime on an equal basis by the public broadcaster and all media were obliged to provide equal conditions for paid advertising. Although it was asserted by some that incumbent officials were provided with more media coverage, this did not create an uneven playing field for candidates. The OSCE confirmed the plurality of Lithuania’s media environment and that freedom of expression was generally respected during the 2016 parliamentary elections, although there were controversies concerning interference in editorial independence.

One of the rare recent controversies had to do with attempts in 2018 by the ruling Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Party to change the oversight of the state-funded Lithuanian Radio and Television – viewed by the analysts as an attempt to politicize its activities and influence the content of broadcasting (see also Media Freedom).
OSCE/ODIHR Election Assessment Mission Report on the 2016 parliamentary elections in Lithuania, see http://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/lithuania/296446.
OSCE/ODIHR Election Assessment Report on the 2014 presidential elections in Lithuania, http://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/116359?download=true.
All newspapers have at least some ties to political parties, reflecting the ownership of the publications. They tend to be rather biased or partisan, especially during election campaigns. While “Luxembourger Wort” was always considered to be close to the Christian Social People’s Party, “Tageblatt” is affiliated with the Luxembourg Socialist Workers’ Party and the “Lëtzebuerger Journal” has close links to the Democratic Party. To counter a dwindling readership, newspapers have adopted a more balanced line in recent years, reducing their political bias, to the benefit of smaller parties and organizations. However, all newspapers are losing circulation. At the same time, new journalistic projects are being created, such as the online magazine www.reporter.lu, which offers serious background journalism and has no advertising.

From the end of 2018, the satirical political newspaper “Feierkrop” will no longer be published. The weekly newspaper was effective in revitalizing the political landscape and presenting critical remarks.

Since there are no significant public broadcasters, the main private broadcaster “Radio Télé Luxembourg” guarantees balanced reporting, according to its concession contract with the state of Luxembourg. During election campaigns, parliament provides the political party lists with airtime and the opportunity to broadcast television ads. Furthermore, the government organizes roundtables with candidates from all party lists. The financing of election campaigns, especially the distribution of promotional leaflets by mail, is regulated by law.

The media market is becoming more pluralistic. Reports and comments in print media have become less partisan and the media increasingly distances itself from political party influence than in previous years. Having made some initial progress in 2018, the government is expected to significantly revise press subsidies in the near future, with the aim of redistributing financial aid to support online media as a supplement to print media.
“Traditionelle Medien in Luxemburg.” Zentrum fir politesch Bildung. May 2018. https://zpb.lu/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Fact-Sheet-Medien-DE-30.05.2018_acc.pdf. Accessed 22 Oct. 2018.

“Medien: Neue Regeln für die Pressehilfe.” Luxemburger Wort, 4 January 2018. https://www.wort.lu/de/politik/medien-neue-regeln-fuer-die-pressehilfe-5a4e55afc1097cee25b7b50f. Accessed 22 Oct. 2018.
Parties have access to broadcast time on television and radio for political purposes during the official campaign period of two weeks preceding an election. This time is divided equally among the parties, according to the number of candidates they present. Parties need to present lists in at least 25% of electoral districts, and field a total number of candidates equal to at least one-quarter of the total number of possible candidates, to qualify for these broadcasts. These short broadcasts (lasting a maximum of three minutes for each party) air during prime-time, and had a non-negligible audience during the recent elections.

If one considers media access more broadly, access to news programs and political debates is overwhelmingly concentrated on the five political forces: the PSD, PS, CDS, PCP (allied with the PEV in legislative elections) and BE. These five forces have almost entirely monopolized parliamentary representation since 1999. Thus, television news coverage, which is popular in terms of TV ratings and is the predominant source of information for the Portuguese, is heavily concentrated on the five main parties.
Slovakia’s media market is so pluralistic as to ensure that all candidates and parties have fair access to the media. In the case of the 2018 municipal elections, all of the candidates were able to make themselves heard. However, the politicization of the public radio and TV broadcaster RTVS under its new director Jaroslav Rezník has raised some concerns about public media coverage of the upcoming national elections.

Election laws mandate that campaign messages must be clearly distinguished from other media content. Since the parliamentary elections in March 2016, the publication of opinion poll results is no longer allowed in the last 14 days before the elections. In the 2017 regional elections, another controversial rule was applied for the first time. The ban on the broadcasting of political advertisement by TV and radio stations in the 48 hours before election day was criticized for being selective by not including internet broadcasting and broadcasting from abroad. Both problems have not been addressed by parliament or the State Commission for Elections and Political Parties Finance.
The Media Law (Article 39g) requires that political parties with one or more seats in either chamber of the States General be allotted time on the national broadcasting stations during the parliamentary term, provided that they participate in nationwide elections. The Commission for the Media ensures that political parties are given equal media access free from government influence or interference (Article 11.3). The commission is also responsible for allotting national broadcasting time to political parties participating in European elections. Broadcasting time is denied only to parties that have been fined for breaches of Dutch anti-discrimination legislation. The public prosecutor is bringing discrimination charges against Geert Wilders, the leading member of parliament representing the Party for Freedom. However, individual media outlets decide themselves how much attention to pay to political parties and candidates. Since 2004, state subsidies for participating in elections have been granted only to parties already represented in the States General. Whether this practice constitutes a form of unequal treatment for newcomers is currently a matter of discussion.
Candidates and parties have largely equal opportunities of access to the media and other means of communication. The major media outlets provide a fair and balanced coverage of different political positions.
There are no explicit barriers restricting access to the media for any political party or candidate. The media is generally independent, and highly activist. Furthermore, the public broadcasters – the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) and the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) – are required under the Australian Broadcasting Act to provide balanced coverage. In practice, the two dominant parties attract most coverage and it is somewhat difficult for minor parties to obtain media coverage. For example, the ABC has a practice of providing free air time to each of the two main parties (Labor and the Liberal-National coalition) during the election campaign, a service not extended to other political parties. Print media is highly concentrated and biased toward the established parties. However, independent and minor-party senators do attract considerable media attention when the governing party does not have a majority in the Senate, and therefore requires their support to pass legislation. In recent decades, this has been the rule rather than the exception.

In terms of advertising, there are no restrictions on expenditures by candidates or parties, although no advertising is permitted in the three days up to and including polling day. Inequity in access to the media through advertising does arguably arise, as the governing party has the capacity to run advertising campaigns that nominally serve to provide information to the public about government policies and programs, but which are in fact primarily conducted to advance the electoral interests of the governing party.
While national media outlets do demonstrate political orientations, in general there is fair and balanced coverage of election campaigns and parties. Under sections 335, 339 and 343 of the Canada Elections Act, every broadcaster in Canada is required to make a minimum of 390 minutes of airtime during each federal general election available for purchase by registered political parties. The allocation of airtime among the parties is usually based on a formula that takes into account factors such as the party’s percentage of seats in the House of Commons, its percentage of the popular vote in the last general election, and the number of candidates it endorsed as a percentage of all candidates. The Canadian system is primarily one of paid political advertising; that is, any broadcasting time used before an election has to be paid for. While CBC/Radio-Canada does provide a small amount free airtime to federal and provincial parties, this does not represent a significant share of political advertising in Canada. However, whether or not this translated into unequal access is unclear, as campaign spending regulations likely impose de facto limits on how much parties can actually spend on televised advertising time.
The Elections Act restricts the amount any outside group can spend on political advertising during a normal-length political campaign to CAD 214,350 (as of 2018). Under the changes implemented to the act through bill C-23 in 2014, this sum also became the limit on any spending “in relation to an election,” not just during the campaign itself, thus capping total spending on political communications in the four to five years between elections.
Parliament of Canada, Bill C-23: An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to certain Acts, posted at http://www.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?Language=E&Mode=1&DocId =6684613.
A significant portion of television channels are owned by a single political leader, Silvio Berlusconi, and demonstrate a special favor toward him and his party. Overall, however, the media offers a reasonably fair treatment of all political candidates. The most important national newspapers and privately owned television broadcasters offer fairly equal access to all positions. State television maintains a generally neutral position.

Access to television by parties and candidates is regulated by a law (Law 28/2000) that provides for equal time for each party during electoral campaigns. An independent oversight authority (Autorità per le Garanzie nelle Comunicazioni) ensures that the rules are followed and has the power to sanction violations. This power is effectively used. Public television is controlled by a parliamentary committee, which reflects the composition of the whole parliament. Although the government in office typically attracts more airtime than the opposition, the treatment of the different parties by the public broadcaster is fairly balanced overall. In the print sector, the large variety of newspapers both with and without a clear political orientation provides sufficiently balanced coverage of all positions.

As the role of electronic (internet) and social media in political contests continues to grow, politicians and parties can rely increasingly on these new forms of media to reach citizens and voters more directly. This fact makes political players more independent from large media groups and public media.
Access to the media for electioneering purposes is regulated by the Public Offices Election Law, and basically ensures a well-defined rule set for all candidates. In 2013, the Public Offices Election Law was revised; the new version allows the use of online networking sites such as Twitter in electoral campaigning, as well as more liberal use of banner advertisements. Regulations are in place to prevent abuses such as the use of a false online identity. In view of the alleged misuse of social media to spread disinformation during the 2016 U.S. presidential election and elsewhere, this proved a prescient reform.

The expanded campaign-media options were actively used in the October 2017 Lower House elections, though actual patterns of behavior varied strongly between parties.
Nikkei.com: Diet OKs Bill To Allow Online Election Campaign, 19 April 2013

2017 Lower House Election/Parties bet on the web to reach voters, The Japan News by the Yomiuri Shimbun, 16 October 2017, http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0004006308

Doug Tsuruoka, Asia ahead of US in passing laws against social media abuse, Asia Times, Bangkok, 1 March 2018, http://www.atimes.com/article/asia-ahead-us-passing-laws-social-media-abuse/
New Zealand
According to the 2017 Election Integrity report, media coverage (together with campaign finance) was evaluated to be relatively poor in comparison with equivalent democracies in Asia and Ocenaia and western Europe. With a score of 48 (on a scale from 0 to 100), New Zealand was evaluated worse than South Korea (56) and Japan (52) and equal to the United Kingdom. Major issues are the allocation of election broadcasting time based on criteria that favor the two largest parties, leading to unequal access to funds for political campaign broadcasts and a potentially undue influence exercised by non-party actors. Although in some previous elections televised debates included the leaders of all parliamentary parties, during the 2017 general election the main debates were restricted to the leaders of the two major parties, with the leaders of the largest of the small parties being invited to debate separately (NZ First’s Winston Peters declined to participate). A formal complaint over the exclusion of small parties from the debate was rejected by the courts. In addition to concerns about the fair treatment of minor parties in a multiparty system, the two-tiered arrangement was criticized for thwarting discussion about possible combinations for any future multiparty government. In fact, in its report on the 2017 election, the Election Commission again recommended “that Parliament considers whether the allocation criteria and the current broadcasting regime are fit for purpose.”
Report of the Election Commission on the 2017 General Election. April 2018. https://www.elections.org.nz/sites/default/files/plain-page/attachments/report_o f_the_2017_general_election.pdf
Pippa Norris, Thomas Wynter and Sarah Cameron. March 2018. Corruption and Coercion: The Year in Elections 2017. https://www.electoralintegrityproject.com/the-year-in-elections-2017/
Candidates and parties are free to purchase political advertising in print publications and on the internet. Advertisements from political parties are not allowed on television or radio, but they are allowed on digital media. This ban has been subject to some controversy, with the populist Progress Party advocating a removal of the restriction. The other political parties are opposed to changing the law.

Television and radio broadcasters, both public and private, organize many electoral debates, to which all major parties (those with a vote share larger than 3% in the previous election) have fair access. There is no direct government interference in choosing the teams of journalists that conduct debates. In general, however, representatives of the larger parties are interviewed more often and participate in more debates than do small-party candidates. Political advertising during election campaigns is extensively regulated to ensure that voters are aware of sources.

The Norwegian media landscape is rapidly changing as digital media replaces print media, which is struggling to survive. In parallel, traditional media houses see that revenues from ads are moving away from Norway to global companies (e.g., Google and Facebook) which contribute little in terms of tax revenues and the promotion of Norwegian culture and language.
All democratic parties or candidates have access to the public media without unreasonable or systematic discrimination. The electoral law regulates strictly the access to public television and public radio networks during electoral campaigns. The system is even very rigid, allocating times for free advertisement slots (paid advertising is not allowed) and news coverage. Thus, parties receive a free slot every day, with its length depending on their share of the vote in the previous elections. A similar system operates with regard to news coverage, where the time allocated to each party is also proportional to the previous electoral results. New candidates or parties find it difficult to gain public media access in this system, though this did not prevent Podemos and Ciudadanos from achieving their electoral gains.

Regarding private media, a reform of the electoral law in 2011 extended the aforementioned system of proportional news coverage during the electoral period to privately owned television stations. Apart from this special regulation for campaigns, empirical work shows a significant connection between media and parties with the same political orientation. For parties not represented in parliament and which therefore have no legal guarantee to broadcast time, the situation is more difficult. They must rely on the internet and small direct digital TV channels.
Media Pluralism Monitor (2016), Spain, European University Institute.
During electoral campaigns, all parties with parliamentary representation have the right to participate in non-biased debates hosted on the public broadcasting system. This can be seen as an obstacle to new parties, which are not covered by this guarantee.

There is no such rule for the private media, either print or electronic. While political parties today rarely own media organizations outright, print-media organizations more or less openly tend to favor specific parties or their associated political positions.

Political parties have what is, in principle, an unlimited ability to take out print advertisements, as long as the source of the advertisement is openly declared. This gives established parties with better access to funding (especially parties in government) some advantage.

However, the access to present a party’s perspectives depends on its financial capacity. Despite rules, recently implemented to guarantee some balance, it became publicly known that some parties significantly overspent during the electoral campaign of 2013 and 2017, and therefore clearly violated the rules. Moreover, in 2016, during the electoral presidential campaign, the two candidates for the final (second) round were unable to reach a consensus on how to control campaign spending.
All mainstream political parties, or so-called democratic parties, have broadly equal access to the media (however, equal media airtime is not guaranteed by law). Minor parties and so-called non-democratic (essentially post-fascist) parties do not have equal access to media, as the main TV stations, for instance, reserve the right to ban such political parties from broadcasts. Print media also offer broad and mostly balanced coverage of political parties, although some newspapers may have preferential links to this or that party “family.”

The influence of post-fascist or national-populist parties varies depending on geographical region. In Flanders, the national-populist Vlaams Belang is considered to be an acceptable party for media interviews and broadcasts. The communist PTB/PVdA receives considerable media coverage across the country since it is now represented in parliament, has a quite mediagenic leader and is popular in polls (especially among French-speaking Belgians). All other parties have quite fair access to the media. Difficulty of access seems to be a substantial issue only for ultra-minority parties, largely because of their small size.
Parties’ and candidates’ media access is only regulated for radio and television. Though not under any legal obligation, almost all newspapers and their online editions offer coverage to all parties and candidates.

The Law on Radio and Television 7(I)/1998, governing commercial audiovisual media services (AVMS), requires equitable and non-discriminatory treatment. The law governing the public-service broadcaster (Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation, RIK) refers to the equitable treatment of political actors, while regulations provide for specific coverage. Equity must be respected, particularly during the pre-election period. However, the laws define the “pre-election period” with varying durations. Airtime must be allotted in accordance with a political party’s share of parliamentary seats and the extent of its territorial organization.

Broadcasters are required to comply with an in-house code of coverage. Monitoring of commercial broadcasters is performed by the Cyprus Radio Television Authority (CRTA), which also produces an annual report on the remit of the public broadcaster. Codes of conduct have almost never been publicly available, which renders scrutiny of compliance impossible. Rare special reports offer little insight for scrutiny. Paid political advertising on broadcast media is allowed during the 40 days preceding elections, on equal terms for all, without discrimination.

It appears that there is compliance with the rules on media access, with smaller parties enjoying proportionally more media time. However, the absence of publicly available codes of conduct negatively affects our evaluation. Finally, an issue of concern is the apparent lower level of media access and visibility accorded to female candidates.
1. The Law on Radio and Television Stations, L. 7(I)/1998, in English, available at http://crta.org.cy/images/users/1/FINAL%20CONSOLIDATED%20LAW%2016.3.17.pdf
2. Report on RIK, public broadcaster for 2016, CRTA [Unpublished report].
3. Regulations on fair treatment of parties and candidates, Normative Administrative Acts (NAA) 193/2006 available at http://www.cylaw.org/nomothesia/par _3/meros_1/2006/1641.pdf (in Greek), and NAA 207/2009 (on European Parliament Elections), available at http://www.cylaw.org/nomothesia/par _3/meros_1/2009/1087.pdf (in Greek).
Formally, all parties or candidates have equal access to media. There are no restrictions based on race, gender, language, or other such demographic factors. However, parties already represented in the national parliament or in local councils have an electoral advantage over new parties or candidates. Furthermore, in the 2013 parliamentary election campaign, several media organizations systematically discriminated against small or new parties, which opinion polls had indicated were unlikely to surpass the 5% minimum vote threshold. However, the state-run media covers all major parties. During the election campaign in the autumn 2017 elections, two small parties complained about not being allowed to participate in the party leader debate on the state-run TV the night before the election day. However, both parties were seen to have very low support and neither fielded candidates in all constituencies.
One of the foundation stones of Israeli democracy is its free press and media. As part of this foundation, laws have been passed to ensure equal media access for all candidates and parties. Moreover, the criteria for allocating air time during election campaigns is impartial: it is not subjected to any kind of arbitrary considerations or determined by the chairman of the Central Elections Committee. More specifically, under the Election Law (Propaganda Means), it is stated that the chairman of the Central Elections Committee determines the radio broadcasting time provided to each list of candidates (currently, each list is entitled to 25 minutes, plus another six minutes for every member of the departing Knesset), whereas all propaganda broadcasts must be at the parties own expense and must be approved in advance by the Chairman of the Central Elections Committee. Recently, an amendment to the elections law has been introduced, proposing to cancel the 60-day prohibition on broadcasting propaganda before election day and requiring transparency on propaganda for four years prior to elections. Other recommendations are currently being debated in the Knesset.

While election broadcasting rights are fair and balanced, equal media access on a routine basis is challenged from several angles. Most notable is the fact that minorities often remain underrepresented. For example, Israeli-Arab interviewees are underrepresented in Hebrew broadcast media. According to the Representation Index – a collaboration between the Sikkuy Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality, the Seventh Eye media watchdog journal and the Ifat media research institute – more Israeli Arabs appeared on Israeli television talk shows and on radio in 2017 than ever before, but were still significantly underrepresented. According to the index, only 3.5% of popular shows included an Israeli Arab participant.

Seventh Eye media watchdog journal pointed out last year that in many cases the media conducted surveys for Jewish citizens only. While those surveys sometimes presented as representing the Israeli public opinion, the fact that they exclude Arab citizens is usually not mentioned. The Arab population’s exclusion from public opinion polls was said by some members of the Israel Press Council to reflect a wider phenomenon regarding the media coverage of the Arab population in Israel. Consequently, the Israel Press Council, voluntary body of publishers, editors, journalists and public representatives amended Article 14 in its ethical code to prohibit exclusion and discrimination of different populations in 2017. Following this amendment, the Israel Press Council can address complaints regarding violation of the article in front of its ethical courts and the latter have the authority impose various punishments on journalist or publications.
Hattis Rolef, Susan, Ben Meir, Liat and Zwebner, Sarah, “Party financing and election financing in Israel,” Knesset Research Institute, 21.7.2003 (Hebrew).

Persiko, Oren. “A Step Towards Dealing with the Media’s Attitude Toward Marginalized Populations ” (Hebrew), 18.02.2016, the7eye: https://www.the7eye.org.il/193765

Persiko, Oren. “About Bullying and Discrimination” (Hebrew), 30.08.2017, the7eye: https://www.the7eye.org.il/219708

Persiko, Oren. “And not Discriminate or Exclude” (Hebrew), 25.09.2016, the7eye: https://www.the7eye.org.il/262354

Persiko, Oreb, “Advanding the representation of arabs in the pupulae media in Hebrew.” 04.2017. Sikui and the Seventh Eye. http://www.sikkuy.org.il/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/%D7%91%D7%A8%D7%95%D7%A9%D7%95%D7%A8-%D7%93%D7%95-%D7%9C%D7%A9%D7%95%D7%A0%D7%99-%D7%A2%D7%91%D7%A8%D7%99%D7%AA-%D7%9C%D7%90%D7%AA%D7%A8.pdf

Shwartz-Altshuler and Lurie, Guy, “Redesign the Israeli Election Propaganda Arrangements“, Israel democracy institute website 6.4.2015:
http://www.idi.org.il/%D7%A1%D7%A4%D7%A8%D7%99%D7%9D-%D7%95%D7%9E%D7%90%D7%9E%D7%A8%D7%99%D7%9D/%D7%9E%D7%90%D7%9E%D7%A8%D7%99%D7%9D/redesigning_propaganda_regulations/ (Hebrew)

Stern, Itay. “Israeli Arab Representation on TV Talk Shows Shot Up in 2016”(Hebrew), 02.02.2017, Haaretz: https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.769065”

Zarchia, Z. “The Constitution Committee has approved to introduce a bill suggesting to cancel the prohibit on election propaganda two months before elections” 11.07.18, Calcalist: https://www.calcalist.co.il/local/articles/0,7340,L-3742130,00.html
Electoral candidates and every political party have equal access to the media. Publicly financed election broadcasts on public and private television are equally available to all, although debates between political party leaders before elections often feature only those parties polling around and above the 5% threshold in the polls.

The national media system as a whole provides fair and balanced coverage. Individually, however, media outlets do not consistently provide fair and balanced coverage of the range of different political positions. Local newspapers and electronic media in Latvia’s rural regions are often dependent on advertising and other support from the local authorities, sometimes leading to unbalanced coverage favoring incumbents. Local government-owned print media is pushing independent local media out of the market, leaving only local government-owned outlets to function as a public relations arm for incumbents. Meanwhile, the opaque ownership structures of media outlets mean that support for political actors is often implied rather than clearly stated as an editorial position. Corrupt political journalism has been prevalent across a wide spectrum of the media. There are also marked imbalances in media coverage related to the different linguistic communities. For example, both Latvian and Russian-language media demonstrate a bias toward their linguistic audiences.
1. Rožukalne, A. (2010), Research Paper on Hidden Advertising Issues in the Media, Available at (in Latvian): http://politika.lv/article_files/2117/original/slepta_reklama_mediju_prakse.pdf?1343212009, Last assessed: 20.05.2013

2. OSCE: Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (2018), ODIHR Needs Assessment Mission Report, Available at: https://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/latvia/387665?download=true, Last assessed: 04.01.2019
While both the public and private media tend to focus on the parliamentary political parties, Slovenia’s public-media regulatory system and pluralist media environment ensure that all candidates and parties have access to the media. The public TV and radio stations are legally obliged to set aside some airtime for parties to present their messages and their candidates. Since a third public TV channel (mainly covering parliamentary debates) was established in 2014, airtime for political parties and candidate lists has increased. But neither the regulatory body nor civil society organizations systematically monitor media coverage during a campaign. Before the 2018 early parliamentary elections, there were numerous televised debates with representatives of all 22 political parties that had candidates in all eight electoral units. Compared to previous elections, however, media bias in favor of the governing coalition and its potential political allies increased, and the debates were separated into debates including only political parties represented in parliament between 2014 and 2018 (including the party of Marjan Šarec) and debates including all other non-parliamentary parties. Furthermore, during televised debates, anchors did not allow or tried to limit debate between representatives of the political parties and debate on certain sensitive issues (e.g., migrant crisis).
South Korea
Candidate media access has improved under the Moon administration. Under past conservative administrations, the Korea Communications Standards Commission and the National Election Commission have sought to block accounts or fine online users for online comments critical of the government or the ruling party. It has even come to light that the Korean National Intelligence Service (NIS) used social-media posts to support President Park’s elections in 2012. Recently, the use of social-media bots to influence online discussions has also become a matter of concern. The immensely controversial National Security Law also applies to online media, creating significant limitations regarding the freedom of expression. The opaque character of South Korean election law concerning allowable support for candidates during the election period, which can last for up to 180 days before an election, represents an electoral gray area. According to some interpretations of Article 93 of the election law, all public expressions of support for candidates or parties are illegal during that period unless one is registered as an official campaigner. This can be seen as a disadvantage for smaller candidates who do not have the same access to traditional media. In general, small parties have a difficult time gaining coverage in the mainstream media.
“Do you know the dismissed journalists?” Journalists Association of Korea, January 20, 2016. (in Korean) http://www.journalist.or.kr/news/article.html?no=38319
Kyunghyang.Competition of new media strategies among presidential candidates. March 16, 2017. http://sports.khan.co.kr/bizlife/sk_index.html?art_id=201703161022003&sec_id=561101&pt=nv
Sent, Dylan. 2018. “Social Media Manipulation of Public Opinion in Korean Elections”. The Diplomat, August 31. Retrieved October 13, 2018 (https://thediplomat.com/2018/09/social-media-manipulation-of-public-opinion-in-korean-elections/)
The media play a central role in political campaigning, and the importance of coverage has further increased in recent years through the rise of social media and the internet. Television remains the most important medium for campaigning in general elections. Paid TV advertising is prohibited for political parties, who can only advertise in newspapers. However, major parties are granted a certain amount of free time for TV advertising, a concession that is not available to minor parties and which could be construed as a deterrent to them.

Coverage on television is fair and balanced, and policed by Ofcom, the industry regulator. Broadcasters are required to be balanced in their coverage of parties, especially at election time. No such restrictions exist for the print industry and indeed there is strong tradition of crass partiality, especially by some newspaper groups that are prominent in national political life, visible once more during the Brexit referendum campaign of 2015 and the ensuing political quarrels. There is therefore a marked imbalance between print and broadcast.
In a broad sense, media access is fair, although the U.S. media exhibit some significant biases. There are only modest publicly funded media: the Public Broadcasting System (PBS, for television), National Public Radio (NPR) and C-SPAN. Most media organizations are privately owned, for-profit enterprises, independent of the government and political parties.

Some media, such as the MSNBC cable news network, have a strong liberal and Democratic party bias. Others, most importantly Fox News Channel, have a fervent conservative and/or Republican bias. During the 2016 campaign and the first year of Trump’s presidency, Fox News has broadly adopted Trump’s often false and misleading rhetorical positions – including his claim that outlets such as CNN, the New York Times, and the Washington Post are providers of “fake news.”

Importantly, in election campaigns, media messages are often dominated by paid advertising. Such advertising can reflect massive imbalances in the fundraising capabilities of the opposing candidates or parties, with a modest, inconsistent advantage for the Republicans. In an unusual feature, Donald Trump had a strong advantage in free air-time on news media because audiences were interested in his frequently extreme rhetoric at campaign rallies.

During the 2016 campaign, for the first time, citizens reported getting their information through social media, especially Facebook and Twitter, as often as from traditional news sources. Social media proved highly amenable to the spreading of false information. The unprecedented biases and distortions in right-wing media and the vulnerability of social media to false news indicate that citizens’ access to reliable information has become problematic.
The electoral law guarantees parties access to state radio and television, with a total of 14 hours set aside for all parties to express their views with equal allocation irrespective of the party’s size or previous electoral performance. Thus, all parties do have access to the public media, although presentations are often tedious and unlikely to hold viewers’ and listeners’ attention. Space is also provided by municipalities for billboards, and political advertisements are carried in newspapers. There is a distinct coverage bias toward the larger parties, due to more significant resources and a perception of importance. Moreover, coverage by private media is less balanced than that of public media. The 2018 presidential elections included televised debates. A final debate on the state TV had the highest rating of all four debates (2.6 million viewers) and statements by the candidates were fact-checked in real time. In October 2018, the Council for Radio and TV broadcasting gave a positive evaluation of debates held on the private broadcaster Prima televize and state TV, but was critical of TV Barrandov for exercising favoritism toward President Zeman, the incumbent. The Council issued a warning to TV Barrandov that any repetition of such activity would result in a high fine. The Czech Syndicate of Journalists, a professional organization, criticized both the TV Nova and TV Barrandov debates as biased in favor of the incumbent.
The electoral process in Mexico is subject to a comparatively high degree of regulation. During the transition to democracy during the 1990s, electoral laws were revised to ensure more equitable conditions for the main political parties.

Currently, all registered political parties are eligible for public financing, the volume of which corresponds to their electoral strength. There are restrictions on the amount of money parties are allowed to raise and spend. Media access during the official campaign period is regulated to ensure a measure of equality. Nevertheless, outside the tightly regulated political campaigns, news coverage is often heavily biased in favor of incumbents. Presidents as well as governors spend exorbitant sums on advertising and pro-government propaganda. Since news outlets rely on this income for their financial survival, they can often scarcely afford to criticize sitting administrations. The Peña Nieto administration has taken this long-standing practice to new levels. According to a report compiled by the think tank Fundar based on government data, his administration spent nearly $2 on advertising in the past five years, substantially more than any previous administrations.
Broadcasting networks and newspapers depend on that money, the big television networks Televisa and Azteca receive around 10% of their advertisement revenue from the federal government. A Supreme Court ruling in November 2017 demanded further regulation and limitation, but the new provisions are yet to be implemented.
In the 2018 campaign, the winner, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, was challenged by the mainstream media, although his use of social media and the support he received from activists successfully overcame this. The oligopolized market of traditional media has lost political weight.
New York Times (25 Dec 2017) “Using Billions in Government Cash, Mexico Controls News Media.”
Candidates and parties often do not have equal opportunities of access to the media and other means of communication. While the major media outlets represent a partisan political bias, the media system as a whole provides fair coverage of different political positions.
Media access for candidates and parties differs between publicly and privately run media. The public broadcast media – one TV and one radio station with several channels each – are required by law to provide full and balanced coverage and to set aside time for every candidate and registered party or coalition to make their own presentations. With usually a large number of parties or candidates in the running, including the case of the 2016 presidential elections and the 2017 parliamentary elections, splitting the time between all is a serious challenge that leaves most participants dissatisfied. Between electoral campaigns, parties not represented in parliament have little access to public media, especially if they are considered potentially serious competitors by the incumbent parties.

Access to privately owned media, especially print media, is not regulated and to a large extent a function of influence or financing. Many private media firms are in the hands of business groups heavily involved in dealings with the state. These organizations tend to present the ruling majority in a positive light, or to block the access of competing political candidates, in exchange for favorable business deals. In the case of local elections, many of these media outlets support specific local candidates and coalitions connected to these special interests.

The role of non-traditional media in Bulgarian elections is increasing. Access to these outlets is available to all candidates.
Price, L. T. (2018). “Bear in Mind… and Do Not Bite the Hand That Feeds You”: Institutionalized Self-Censorship and Its Impact on Journalistic Practice in Postcommunist Countries – the Case of Bulgaria. In: Eric Freedman, Robyn S. Goodman, Elanie Steyn (eds.), Critical Perspectives on Journalistic Beliefs and Actions. London/ New York: Routledge, 211-221.
Amendments to the election law in February 2015 changed the legal framework for media coverage of parliamentary elections as part of an effort to end the “clogging” of the media space by minor candidates. As a result of the amendments, private broadcasters are no longer obliged to cover the campaign and public broadcasters can decide themselves whether to provide candidates proportional rather than equal coverage in reports and analysis. Moreover, debates among candidates have been restricted to only one per broadcaster. After the public broadcaster HRT decided to involve only five parties (a decision based on public opinion polls) for a scheduled debate in the run-up to the 2015 parliamentary elections, the State Electoral Committee judged this decision to be arbitrary and the debate was canceled. Before the 2016 parliamentary elections, HRT broadcast a debate with only the leading candidates of the two biggest parties, thereby ignoring Most-NL’s strong showing in the previous elections and its strategic role. Most-NL and the smaller parties thus complained of discrimination. Several NGOs have argued for giving the Agency for Electronic Media of the Republic of Croatia a more important role in covering election campaigns in order to assist the State Electoral Commission in applying the media-campaign regulation provisions of the electoral law.
Malta has both state and private media. The Maltese constitution provides for a Broadcasting Authority (BA). Owing to its composition and appointment procedure, the BA is not perceived as an independent regulator. Its job is to supervise broadcasting and ensure impartiality. However, the BA focuses on the PBS (public broadcasting service) and not private outlets. It also does not monitor campaign coverage but rather acts on complaints. During elections, the BA provides for equal time for the two major political parties on state television on its own political debate programs as well as airtime for political advertising. The 2017 Media Monitor gave the country low risk score of 25% in terms of the media and democratic electoral processes, thus emphasizing that different political actors were represented fairly, as mandated by law. However, smaller parties or independent candidates do not receive equal treatment on state media. In the 2017 elections, the small parties were not able to participate in the main pre-election debates on the PBS; several formal complaints were filed by the smaller parties. The PBS management is appointed by government, which is said to negatively impact its independence. Complaints to the broadcasting watchdog have dwindled and no fines were levied in 2017. There is no law that makes government office incompatible with media ownership; indeed, both major political parties own media outlets. This gives them an advantage over smaller parties, and has a restrictive effect on genuine debate. The 2017 Media Monitor notes that Malta is the only EU country where political parties have such extensive media ownership. The BA and the Press Act require party-run media to allow for a right of reply to an aggrieved party or individual. Access to newspapers becomes increasingly restricted at election time; unrestricted access is obtainable at a cost.

Due to increased competition and the proliferation of privately-owned radio and television stations, all candidates can now obtain airtime to present their views, albeit at a cost. However, the 2017 OSCE election assessment mission report stated that independent candidates and small parties enjoyed little visibility apart from on social media.
http://www.ba-malta.org/prdetails?i d=246
Social Media during the 2013 General Election in Malta. Department of Information Malta
www.consilium.europa.eu/media/…/1 st-panel-oswald-main-slide-speaker….
Sammut,C (2007) Malta and the Media Landscape
Monitoring Media Pluralism in Europe: Country Report Malta 2017
Campaign coverage by broadcast media, both private and public, is subject to detailed and complex regulations. The law provides for free access to public television and radio for all parliamentary parties to promote their platforms. Such access is also granted to non-parliamentary parties that submit full candidate lists in at least 23 constituencies. Broadcasting time granted by public and private broadcasters and editorial boards must ensure non-discriminatory conditions. However, the monitoring capacity and the sanctioning power of the National Audiovisual Council, the regulatory body in charge, are limited. Media access in a broader sense is uneven, as the public media has been susceptible to governmental and parliamentary influence, while private media is biased by its owners’ political and economic interests. Talk-show hosts and political programs seldom invite speakers with views other than those of the media outlet’s owner, and politicians and companies that buy ads often ask media outlets to refrain from criticizing them.
OSCE/ODIHR (2016): Needs Assessment Mission Report: Romania, Parliamentary Elections 11 December 2016, Warsaw, 8-9 (http://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/romania/278346?download=true).
Access by candidates and parties to public TV channels is regulated by law (Law No. 18,700, Ley Orgánica Constitucional sobre Votaciones Populares y Escrutinios, and Law No. 18,603, Ley Orgánica Constitucional de los Partidos Políticos). Given the high concentration of media ownership with a specific political viewpoint, candidates and parties de facto lack equal opportunity of access to a plurality of media and other means of communication. La Nación, a former daily paper owned and run by the state, stopped publishing a print edition during Sebastián Piñera’s first administration in 2010 (although the publication is still accessible online). Chile’s largest free TV channel (TVN) is state-owned, and is required by law to provide balanced and equal access to all political views and parties – a regulation which is overseen by the National Television Directorate (Consejo Nacional de Televisión, CNTV). The private media is mainly owned and/or influenced by elite associated with the Chile Vamos (until 2015, Alianza por Chile) coalition, which represented the opposition until March 2018 and has been the ruling political force since then. Although La Nación and TVN are state-owned, they must operate according to market rules, relying on advertising revenues and strong audience ratings. In general, regional candidates tend to have fewer media-access opportunities due to the strong centralization of Chile’s political and media systems.
Legally, parties and candidates have equal access to public and private media. At least for nationwide candidate lists, the election code requires public TV and radio stations to reserve time for the free broadcasting of campaign materials and for televised candidate debates. In the 2015 presidential and parliamentary elections, the pluralistic nature and quality of the private media in Poland had allowed all parties and candidates the opportunity to reach the public with their messages, although public broadcasters were hesitant to give equal broadcast time to “second-order” candidates in the campaign for the first round of the 2015 presidential elections. The PiS government’s measures aimed at controlling the public and private media have significantly increased the partisan bias in media reporting, and have led to uneven media access for the various parties.
Candidates and parties lack equal opportunities of access to the media and other means of communications. The major media outlets are biased in favor of certain political groups or views and discriminate against others.
In the 2018 election campaign, media access was highly uneven. The Orbán government ignored the existing formal duties for balanced coverage and made strong use of its control over the public and private media. After the failed anti-refugee referendum in 2016, the Orbán government also radically rearranged the advertisement market by handing over the control of billboards to pro-government companies and subnational governments. The opposition had some access to the public via the media empire of Lajos Simicska, an enigmatic oligarch that fell out of favor with Orbán in 2015 and supported Jobbik in the 2018 election campaign.
According to Law 3984 on the establishment of radio and television enterprises and broadcasts, “equality of opportunity shall be established among political parties and democratic groups; broadcasts shall not be biased or partial; broadcasts shall not violate the principles of election bans which are determined at election times.” However, legislation regulating presidential elections and referendums does not ensure equal access for political parties and candidates to public and private media. The Supreme Board of Elections’ (SBE) ability to sanction electoral violations was repealed using the state of emergency decree (No. 687) issued in January 2017. This impunity mechanism facilitated several violations without any sanction in the June 2018 elections.

Currently, most mainstream media companies, including the state-owned radio and television company (TRT), are either directly or indirectly controlled by the government, or self-censor. Privately owned media outlets face either judicial or financial investigations, and media freedom is thus being placed at risk in an unconstitutional manner.

Throughout the June 2018 presidential and early parliamentary election campaigns, most print and visual media outlets favored the incumbent president and the ruling AKP. Between 14 May and 22 June 2018, the state-run TRT channels dedicated about 250 hours of coverage to the incumbent president and the AKP, but only 25 hours to opposition parties and other presidential candidates. The pro-government TV channels reserved no airtime for opposition parties or candidates (or referred to them in a negative tone if they were included). Meanwhile, the mainstream private TV channels, CNN-Turk and NTV, provided opposition parties and candidates less than half of the airtime that was provided to the incumbent president and party. Overall, 70% of paid advertising on TV channels was dedicated to the incumbent president and party. Some pro-government party TV channels failed to broadcast any opposition party or candidate advertising.

An OSCE-ODIHR Report also underlined that candidates were unable to contest fairly and equally in terms of resources and media visibility. Anadolu Agency, a state-run news agency, mock data testing results were broadcasted by a pro-government TV channel, TVNET, on 19 June 2018, declaring Erdoğan’s victory with 53% votes. Anadolu Agency, a monopoly news agency, disseminated the results of over 180,000 electoral ballots before the SBE had announced the official results. These developments reinforced suspicions of electoral fraud.

Following the sale of Doğan Media Outlet to a pro-government conglomerate in 2018, a number of current affairs and political debate programs were terminated and more than 50 journalists dismissed. The opposition candidates and parties have extensively used social media networks due to their restricted access to conventional media (newspapers and TVs).
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F. Sarp Nebil, “2018 Cumhurbaşkanlığı seçiminde hangi aday sosyal medyayı daha iyi kullandı?”, http://t24.com.tr/yazarlar/fusun-sarp-nebil/2018-cumhurbaskanligi-seciminde-hangi-aday-sosyal-medyayi-daha-iyi-kullandi,19975 (accessed 27 October 2018)
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